EU infrastructure policy


The waterway infrastructure remains the backbone for transport over water. Important capacity bottlenecks in the network have to be removed to ensure smooth traffic. But modal shift requires not only increased capacity. To ensure a reliable network across borders, overall quality and performance become vital to reach a good navigation status across borders. On the one hand, quality requires a life cycle approach to avoid disruptions, extend the life of existing infrastructure and reduce the need for radical and expensive interventions. Non-deterioration should be a key principle in the new TEN-T. On the other hand, future-oriented quality means regeneration and renovation of the network allows to prepare the network for innovation and new developments. Quality also requires availability and reliability of  infrastructure services coupled with information to users and secure and safe access to the water.

Wy is the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) important?

  • CEF is the EU funding instrument to achieve trans-European networks.
  • CEF Transport will have co-financed projects with a total budget of 24.05 billion euro in 2014-2020. 5.83% has been allocated to inland waterways in 2014-2018. CEF also enables investment in the implementation of new technologies and innovation. And it supports synergies between transport, telecommunications and energy, which is relevant for digitalisation and decarbonisation of transport.

The Green Deal aims to decarbonise important sectors such as the building, energy and agricultural sectors. Take the example of construction materials. Construction materials constitute the largest cargo flow in cities, building and demolition represent one third of EU waste generation. These large volumes are well suited for inland shipping. To enable seamless and sustainable transport for new economies, multimodality has to become the default option.

Further integration of waterways with other modes should not only be pursued more strongly for international and inter-regional flows, but also in urban environments where most of the negative externalities are generated. Next to sustainable urban mobility, we need sustainable urban logistics and proactive spatial planning, to allow inland ports to help supplying industries and cities as multimodal hubs and enablers of green logistics.

European cities have been founded on waterways for smooth and safe transport of goods and people. Let waterways again take up their initial transport role in the many European cities they cross and integrate waterways more aptly in urban nodes for commuting, leisure and logistics.

Integrating policies
Waterways are multi-functional assets. Waterway authorities require better tools to optimise a good combination between waterway functions without jeopardising reliable inland waterway transport through well-balanced and coordinated policies and funding. This becomes even more important in the light of climate change.

Inland navigation is vulnerable to climate change as it depends on precipitation and water levels for its operations and extreme events may become more frequent. There is a vital link with industrial policy. Waterways are an important location requirement for the construction, agricultural, steel, energy and chemical sectors, all delivering prime materials for important industrial value chains. Reverse modal shift is not the only imminent threat, frequent seriously low water periods without coordinated action expose Europe to the danger of offshoring instead of reshoring, leading to loss of production and jobs in the EU.

The good news is that adaptation to climate change is possible. It requires actions at the level of logistics, fleet and infrastructure. Waterway authorities take a progressive and flexible approach building on progressive insight and look for no-regret and cross-sectoral win-win measures. But they need stronger EU action to help increase and share knowledge, to coordinate instruments of different policies and matching funding to be successful across borders.

Status of EU investment in inland waterways 2014-2017
Pipeline of inland waterway investment plans





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